Get to Know the CRäKN Team

Posted January 25, 2016

6 min read

In our latest blog series, we are introducing you to the CRäKN team. Meet Senior Developer Matthew Howes, Senior Developer Kris Van Houten and business solutions architect Scott McLachlan. Learn more about how they “Get CRäKN” in their roles.

Q: Can you share your role on the CRäKN team?

Scott McLachlan: My relationship with CRäKN is as a consultant but if I had to summarize it, I’d say that I am a business solutions architect who wears a number of different hats. Much of my focus is on supporting the strategic big picture; such as ensuring alignment of tools/technology with business objectives, providing insight into architecture design/best practices, supporting sales & marketing strategies, vetting new product/feature ideas, basically anything that helps differentiate CRäKN and be successful. Early on I was brought in to assess the initial app development work and help get the product development moving in the right direction to where it is today. Getting to this point, getting to this point has really been the result of the great collaboration and diverse skill sets that exist within the team that Scott Mindrum has assembled. I feel lucky to be a part of this group.

Matthew Howes: I’m a senior developer and, as such, I’m mainly responsible for doing everything on the server side. Essentially, I make sure everything stays up and running. I’m the “man behind the curtain”. I also handle special one-off projects. Though I’m one of CRäKN’s more recent full-time hires, I’ve been doing contracting work with them practically since the beginning, so I’ve been involved with a lot of different things.

Kris Van Houten: As a senior developer at CRäKN, my specific role tends to primarily be focused on front-end development. That is, building out the client facing portion of the application and always looking for methods to improve how the user interacts with it. I’ve been with the company since July of 2015 and thoroughly enjoy being on the team as well as having the opportunity and encouragement to learn and grow in my knowledge.

Q: What are some of the tools or apps—or part of your routine—you can’t live or work without right now?

Scott McLachlan: A supporting spouse! As an entrepreneur it can be very demanding in a number of ways and sometimes discouraging. I give her a lot of credit – she has always been supportive. If I ever needed a kick in the butt or bit of encouragement she has been there, having that support has been great.

From a tool (or app) standpoint it has to be my iPhone: It’s in my pocket (or near by) all the time. Many of the apps that I access on my Mac I can also access from my phone…this makes life so much easier, though it is nice to completely disconnect now and again.

Matthew Howes: I work heavily in Linux. I’ve gotten so used to it that working in anything else is sort of a distraction, so I’d say that’s the most crucial tool involved in my routine. Other than that, I use Pandora radio a lot—I just kind of go “heads down” and start working. I like to keep up on the technology world by listening to pod-casts; I think the app I use is Podcast Addict.

Kris Van Houten: I love learning, so the Kindle is my go to reading device for books. When it comes to my phone, Feedly is the app I use to keep up to date with a number of business, development, and Christian blogs. To stay current with world news, I have a subscription to The Week, and Overcast feeds me a steady dose from an arsenal of podcasts including The Tim Ferriss Show, Ember Weekend, JavaScript Jabber, Stuff You Should Know, Reformed Pubcast, and many more. When one of those apps isn’t open on my phone, you will likely find me dancing at my desk to something on Spotify.

Q: What’s your advice for listening to customers and incorporating their feedback into the product you’re building?

Scott McLachlan: Listening to customers and understanding what is valuable to them, and using that information in your product feature prioritization. Customers should help drive what it is you provide as a service or build as a product. If you are taking their feedback and then turning around and delivering what they’re asking for, or what they’re requesting, then you are more apt to build a loyal customer base. The challenge is balancing that feedback with the overall product vision…maintaining alignment between both.

With our agile approach to product development I feel it helps us to better integrate feedback from customers. Especially as we prioritize features for future iterations of the product. I think working this way means we will also build a loyal customer base who becomes more engaged with your product. In turn we hope they become advocates of CRäKN.

Matthew Howes: It all comes down to communication and collaboration. The most important thing is to make sure that you are actually listening to what the client wants, and not only to what you want. At times, the “fun” things aren’t the things that are needed. Listening to the client’s feedback and having an open mind towards their ideas can give you a completely new perspective on the product, and that kind of collaboration leads to incorporating important new ideas that are reflected in the final product.

Kris Van Houten: First of all, make sure your customers actually feel like they are being heard. This comes down to basic communication skills and ensuring your correspondence doesn’t sound like it came from a script. From there, take what feedback you’ve been given, and see if, how, and when you can implement it in your product, and keep your customers in the loop. Of course, if you can over-deliver on their request, everyone wins!

Q: What excites you right now about the work you’re doing at CRäKN?

Scott McLachlan: Building something that is new and different, yet valuable for our customers. I have an entrepreneurial mindset and CRäKN offers the opportunity to pursue those desires. Helping people look at things differently than the way they’re used and hopefully making their lives easier, giving them time, convenience and peace of mind.

Matthew Howes: When you think of the funeral industry you may say, “How much can you really do there?” but that is a mistaken mindset, and we are innovating in this space. Working here, I’m able to do some really fun stuff with some newer technologies. One example is that, recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work with our CRäKN Jax, which is built using a tiny computer called a Raspberry Pi. There are some other projects we have in the pipeline, but I’m not sure if I can talk about those just yet. Let’s just say it will be incredibly exciting when they release.

Kris Van Houten: Right now, I’m working on a number of features. The smallest of which is trying to improve the interface throughout the app, the largest being a product and pricing portion that has been in the works for the last several months. It’s exciting to have the opportunity and responsibility to build these solutions from the ground up and watching them mature as they are used.

Categories: Industry


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